Checking in on the Premier League contenders

At the end of the Premier League transfer window last summer, we posted an article projecting the potential top finishers in the league. At the time, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United looked to be the most interesting clubs, in terms of moves made at that point and the potential to contend for a title. Well, now the 2014/15 EPL season is nearing its midpoint, and with the January transfer window open, here’s an updated look at the teams to watch.

Chelsea

In the summer article, we pointed out that all eyes would be on Jose Mourinho’s La Liga acquisitions (Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa) to make the Blues’ season a successful one. But no one saw a Diego Costa performance this good coming. ESPN FC lists Costa with 14 goals through 17 Premier League performances thus far, and behind this superb play Chelsea has established itself as the league leader and likely champion. It’s worth mentioning that in recent weeks the Blues have come back down to Earth after a sensational first few months to the season. At one point Chelsea looked like an absolutely sure bet to win the title. Regardless of recent struggles or January transfer news, Jose Mourinho’s club remains the favourite.

Manchester City

It seems almost shocking to say so after Chelsea’s aforementioned hot start, but Manchester City has pulled even in the league standings with 46 points through 20 games played. They may get even deadlier in the attack if the transfer window goes as planned. BBC Sport’s football report suggests that City is inching closer to signing Wilfried Bony, who scored 20 goals in the league in 2014 and has unquestionably been Swansea City’s best player. We’ve seen time and time again that chemistry matters as much as talent in EPL play, and not every new addition comes in as seamlessly as Diego Costa did for Chelsea. But Bony would likely make Man City an even more formidable contender as it seeks to defend its 2013/14 title.

Manchester United

Manchester United began the league campaign looking somewhat shaky. It seems as if first-year manager Louis van Gaal has now earned the trust and confidence of his players, and Man Utd. is rolling in a way we haven’t seen in a few seasons. Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie have been terrific in engineering the Man Utd. attack, and summer addition Radamel Falcao hasn’t really even gotten going yet. But it’s on defense, and in goal, that Man Utd. is making the biggest difference. Despite the outstanding quality of keeper David de Gea, betting.betfair’s football news section reports that Man Utd is on the cusp of signing Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes without a fight (more on that here). It’s a strange decision, but gives the club incredible depth in the back and a nice insurance policy moving forward. There’s still ground to make up in the standings, but United has moved within striking distance should Chelsea and Man City falter.

Arsenal

And finally, there’s Arsenal. After the summer signing of Alexis Sanchez, they looked to be one of the league’s most talented sides. The Gunners have been great at times, but they have also struggled to put together any sort of consistent run that could propel them to the top of the league. Arsenal currently resides outside of the top-five in the standings, but an active January transfer window could set the team up for a nice few months to finish the season. Having already been linked to the likes of Moussa Sissoko and Edinson Cavani, Arsenal is now rumoured to be pursuing Luis Suarez, who hasn’t quite found his groove at Barcelona. Any move of this magnitude would keep the 2014/15 Gunners very interesting.

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